It used to be Outlook. Now it is common to hear people saying Google apps will do the trick for CRM for Real Estate agents. I have no doubt that it is sufficient for some people, as is Outlook. My caveats for Google apps being sufficient are much the same as they have always been for Outlook in concert with MS Office products.
While Google apps has a nice array of features, it is still not real estate specific. This means it requires a significant amount of manipulation and customization so that it does more of what you need it to do. The vast majority of agents are not capable of that kind of customization. The ones who are able, are usually not willing to spend the amount of time necessary to do it. Of the ones who are both able and willing, very few will actually make the time do it. And if they do, they still have to use several different products and continue to rely on redundant data entry to get everything they need done.
If you are doing a so-so amount of business, and all you want to do is maintain the status-quo, Outlook or Google may suffice. However - if you want to grow your business, while having more of a life, with less stress, with less mistakes, with better service, with less staff, with more compliments, with more referrals, then they will prove to be inadequate. Been there – done that – got the t-shirt.
Besides having used many RE CRMs since 1988, starting with a DOS program called Real Estate Specialist, and having spent thousands of hours for the last decade evaluating them and speaking daily with users on a one-on-one basis, in seminars, conventions, user groups, CE classes, forums, list-servs, - you get the picture, I am an active agent. Granted I do a minimal amount of business by choice, but at one time I was doing 40-50 sides/yr. If Outlook with an add-on and MS Office or Google Apps were the best solution available, I would be using them. I am not. I am using Advantage Xi.
That does not mean I think it is the right product for everyone. Different people have different aptitudes for software, different needs, and different goals. I recommend different CRMs to them accordingly when I evaluate their needs. I am simply going to point out what I like about this one, and you can decide for yourself if it is appropriate for you to take a look at it.
While there is no silver bullet CRM that does absolutely everything, there is not much that Advantage Xi does not do. It is not for the agent who wants a CRM with a limited number of features, and wants to be up and running in a couple days. It may be for you if power and flexibility are what you are looking for. If you are a power user who has tried many CRMs, you definitely want to take a look.
This product has been continuously improved by regularly implementing user suggestions since its inception in 1991. A list of the updates can be seen going all the way back to 2003. They typically come out two to four times each month, and are installed automatically by clicking the Update button. The agents who most consistently praise Advantage Xi as the best all around CRM are those who have used (not just trialed) many other CRMs, and who are the most demanding CRM users in Real Estate. Go to the Yahoo user group and you will see all manner of comments, warts and all. Mostly you will hear agents who have used Google apps, Outlook with add-ons, Goldmine, ACT!, Agent Office, SalesForce, SugarCRM, Maximizer, Top Producer, WiseAgent, Realty Juggler, and many others say that after years of using many different products, they have finally stopped looking. Advantage is their holy grail of CRMs.
A recent post from the Yahoo user group by Judi Bryan makes my point succinctly, eloquently, and accurately. She said:
“I'm a big believer, particularly with CRM, in considering the Big Picture. Xi excels at about 90% of what I want a CRM to do. There is another 7-8% where it handles what I need. And, yes, there is about 2-3% where it could do a lot better (and much of that 2-3% is something that Xi cannot do by itself...it relies on other systems and services which are not themselves fully developed or capable). No doubt it is because I have used so many other CRM products that I'm such a huge fan of this one. I know the alternatives and on the whole, this beats the competition for what I want and need hands down – warts and all.”
The first and biggest component with regards to integration for efficiency is e-mail. It has its own e-mail client which has a similar look and feel to Outlook, but replaces it. All incoming and outgoing e-mails are stored with the contact automatically, if the contact is in the database. Multiple e-mail addresses can be stored for one person to insure automated association regardless of which e-mail address it is coming from. One e-mail can be sent to the primary and secondary contact at two different e-mails addresses at the same time.
Advanatge Xi uses a free Google account to synch e-mail, calendar and address book to virtually any phone. The end result is that I can receive an e-mail on my Droid X, reply to it, and then delete it from my phone. That deletion in turn deletes it from my Google inbox (keeping a copy in the trash folder), and from the Advantage Xi inbox. Both the received e-mail and the reply are automatically stored with the contact record in Advantage Xi. Once there, it can be acted upon with regards to replying, forwarding, etc. in fully functional HTML, including stationary, and attachments.
Using rules/filters, Advantage Xi’s e-mail will take any plain text e-mail lead and act on it with any combination of From, To, CC, Subject, or keywords in the body of the e-mail, auto populating the lead as a contact, categorizing it, and launching a follow up drip campaign or action plan based on those qualifications. You can even run a macro from the rule!
Any e-mail, letter, post card, or flier can be delivered to any category of contacts, very simply without doing a search. The categories just drop down in the address book. Or you can do an advanced search with the most powerful search function in the industry, and send to those people. Here is the only real hole in the product. It does not come with much at all in the way of templated e-mails, letters, or action plans. Both the Dave Beson products and my Trans-Plans for Listings and Closings can be purchased for installation as an add-on or you can create your own.
E-mails, letters or post cards that are generated by drip campaigns and action plans, that are due out that day are sent automatically, or with one click, or can be acted upon individually.
The contact screen and property screen allow you to add or delete any tabs that you want. If you don’t want the Employment tab, simply delete it. Pick which tab is the default to be displayed when opening a contact by double clicking on the tab. My default is the notes tab.
The contact screen: click here for a screen shot.
…includes the ability to have any number of customized types of notes. Unlimited multiple addresses, with a check box to determine which is the mailing address. All transaction and properties are tied to the contact and linked. Demographics tab with customizable fields to store, hobbies, favorite wine, college, etc., as well as user defined fields. Family tab for family members with automated reminders for birthday, transaction anniversary, and wedding anniversary. Notes can be viewed in two different formats, and can include HTML. Connections tab allows for links to other people in your database affiliated with this contact. Contacts can be both a Type such as Personal versus Client in a broad descriptive field known as Contact Type, while the finer description of the contact is done in the Classification field, which you would probably normally think of as categories. The Social Media tab enables you to add the contact’s Facebook or Twitter account o be viewed right from the contact screen. Referrals trees reflect who referred whom both incoming and outgoing, relationally linked, displaying not only who referred whom, but a dollar value of the referred business from that contact, with again the most powerful referral tracking in the industry. Link to a map of the contact’s address or directions to it online using your choice of Google or Yahoo maps from the contact screen.
A Record Owner field allows for administrator assignment of which users can see which contacts, as well as restrictions as to deletion of e-mails or notes.
Document and photo tabs allow for storage as a path to a local drive or server, or as a URL to an online document storage service, in the contact screen, or in the property transaction screen.
Action plans/drip campaigns/task series can be created for prospect follow-up, transaction management, or post closing follow-up with again, the most powerful and flexible task management/action plans in the Real Estate specific CRM industry. Having created Trans-Plans for Listings and Closings for Top Producer, Agent Office, Active Agent for Outlook, Advantage Xi, and coming soon for IXACTContact, I know a little about action plan capabilities in CRMs. Nothing else comes close to Xi for the flexibility and power of what they call “Task Series”.
The calendar displays whoever is logged on as the default. Other users’ calendars can be displayed, with a drop down, or all users at once. Tasks can be assigned to multiple users at once, or to Staff Positions as opposed to users. For the color coding fanatics, the calendar has it.
The Today screen groups types of tasks on the left such as Phone Calls, To-Do’s, Appointments, E-mail Due out, Letters Due Out, and displays the selected group of tasks individually on the right. Each task has links to the task itself, the contact, document, or e-mail, and a drop down allows for many options such as completing it, deleting it, etc.
The Property Browser is where all your properties, listings and closings are located. If you are tracking your own showings, with a single click you can send a template e-mail to all showing agents for a price reduction or any other information you want to share with them. Parties can be affiliated with a transaction and can be selectively e-mailed with one click, say to notify them of a closing date and time, etc. Do you specialize in Short Sales, Foreclosures, REO’s, Commercial Real Estate, Rentals, etc. If the screens available do not reflect the data you need to record, you can create your own screen to include text fields, drop downs, and more, and add that as a tab in the contact screen or property screen. Link to a map of the property or directions online using your choice of Google or Yahoo maps from the property screen.
The Real Estate Tab also includes amortization schedules, sales volume report, estimated proceeds and estimated price range functions.
You can also add and customize the tab layouts. I have a tab which has a number of commonly used links, such as the MLS, NAR, Realtor.com, etc. You don’t even have to go outside of the program to get to your favorite sites.
Reports are 100% customizable or you can create one from scratch.Client reports automatically created by completing action plans can be included for automatic delivery in e-mail or print.
Are you a list person? The List of Lists section allows you to create lists with fields like start date, completion date, etc.
There is a powerful internal word processor with which to create letters, as well as a desktop publishing utility. If they are not to your liking, you can link to MS Word or Publisher to do your mail merges from within Advantage Xi. The
Task Series Spreadsheet allows you to see all of your active action plans in one screen, displaying what is done and needs to be done for each contact or property, color coded. If you want to look at all of your listings for example, it displays the property and client in the first column, and then all the tasks across the top. In the columns are the dates due, and each task can be acted upon from that screen.
If you currently have Agent Office, you may or may not be aware that the export utility is woefully lacking. All it essentially exports is the contact data, but does not export categories or notes. Advantage Xi has a built in utility that uses the Agent Office data folder instead of the export file, and gets the categories and notes, as well as Activity Plans, Calendar Items, some property information, and sometimes the letter library depending upon your version.
There is also an import utility for Top Producer that makes the transition much easier. Although Top Producer does export 235 fields, Advantage Xi is not capable of importing all of it due to field mapping issues.
Believe it or not, there are still many many more features I have not listed here. Over 20 years of agent suggestions have made this program what it is. It really is amazing. Is it perfect? Nope! Are there bugs here and there that will tick you off at times? Yup! But they are extremely responsive to any problems that may arise.
Support is obtained a number of ways. There is the Online Help Desk which is linked to from within the program. It is live chat, and if it is more expedient for them to help you by going online and accessing your computer remotely to do it for you, they will do so, including help with your import.
There is also a support ticket system. Do you have a quick how-to that you don’t need the answer to immediately? Post it there and get an answer within a few business hours. This is also where you would submit suggestions to improve the product as well, and if it’s an easy one, don’t be surprised if it is in the next update a week or two later. I proposed the Facebook and Twitter interface on a Monday and it was in the updates two weeks later.
There is a text Knowledge Base to look up error codes on the rare occasion that you may get them.
There is a video tutorial library comprised of over 130 tutorials.
There is a very active Yahoo user group where several hundred users share ideas. You can see what people say about the support there. You will find high praise the vast majority of the time.
Advantage Xi is a desktop software application with a one time fee of $315 (my discounted price) for one computer license, $415 (my discounted price) for a 3 computer license, with additional licenses costing $75. It can be used whether or not you are online. If you want to share the data between home and office through the Internet (which includes e-mail), or with remote users, an annual fee of $120 enables automated synching of the hosted database with all users. It is essentially like having Outlook exchange to share your database with everyone.
If you would like a live online demonstration of Advantage Xi, or any one of the other 30 Real Estate CRMs I have for sale, just give me a ring or drop me an e-mail.